So what exactly is empathy? Empathy is, “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” So, why is empathy important and how does it affect the way we treat animals? I read an article about the psychology of empathy, and in this article, they explained how a man, Jack Levin, performed an experiment to inform us how the human brain works. Levin gave a scenario in which he asked people to react. This scenario was that someone got hit by a baseball bat and broke numerous limbs. But, the only thing that changed was the victim. The four different victims were a baby, puppy, adult dog, or adult human. The respondents showed empathy for everyone but the adult human, leading us to the conclusion that our empathy level has to do with perceived vulnerability. Vulnerability means how exposed you are to danger. Our brain tells us that adult humans can stand up for themselves, which is why we don’t feel as empathetic towards them. On the other hand, a one year old baby can’t defend itself, which is why we do feel empathy for them.
This leads us to our next topic–how does our level of empathy connect to animals? Maybe we’ll feel less guilty of killing an animal that’s already grown up because it could protect itself. Killing a baby kitten, for example, would be much more difficult, but that’s because they have no source of protection–they can’t use their fangs, glares, or speed. Not only does hurting wildlife have to do with our empathy, but also with using the parts of an animal for our own good.
We are so occupied with making our own lives better that we don’t even realize how we are affecting the things around us, like nature. Over 60 % of the U.S. lands permit hunting, and some places allow bear hunting around spring time, when bears emerge from their dens. Usually, mother bears are pregnant during this time, making them easy targets. If they die, their cubs will be left alone to starve, and then eventually die as well. I read another article on the effects we have on animals, and I learned something very interesting. It turns out that all the noise and fear that animals receive from hunters affects their diet. They won’t eat as much food, making it hard for them to survive during winter.
Not only are we hurting creatures by using them to our advantage, but we also kill them to use their skin and bones in medicine. For example, tigers. Tigers are magnificent creatures, every one having a different pattern of stripes on their fur. Did you know that the tiger’s stripes also appear on their bare skin if you shave off all of their fur? To survive in the wild, tigers use a method known as camouflage. They use their stripes to help break themselves apart and blend in. But this method works especially well for the tigers. Their prey, such as deer, only process the colors green and blue in their eyes. Thus, the tiger appears green to them, causing it to blend in with the rest of the forest background. This gives the deer a slower reaction time to escape. On the other hand, us humans can see colors like green and blue, but also red. This is why the tiger looks orange and, unlike to deer, stands out from the background.
In the end, our behavior towards animals depends on our perceived vulnerability. We feel more empathetic to animals that are more innocent. We also use them to our advantage. After humans entered this planet, they have caused 85% of all life on Earth to decline! If we want to restore life and endangered species, we have to be more aware of our surroundings and more eco-friendly, like reduce, reuse, and recycle. We can recycle plastic and throw away our trash into the correct garbage cans.